France 2017, Saône, Seille (Day 19)

Chalon-sur-Saône – Truchère

Monday, 21.08.2017

38 km 2 locks

Off to town to see the amazing musée Nicéphore Niépce. Nicéphore Niépce was one of the fathers of Photography and his Heliographys are the earliest surviving “photos”. Together with his brother Claude he also invented the first internal combustion engine used to propel a boat in 1807, the Pyréolophore. Definitely one of those giants that we have to pay our respect to.

This is the oldest surviving camera, that shot the oldest surviving photo in 1927. Not quite an easy to handle consumer product.
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The museum has got a good collection of preserved Heliographys.
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The museum also hosts a special exhibition about the Kodak Colorama. These iconic and huge pictures (18m x 5,5m) were on display in the Grand Central Station in New York. There was a new image every week, taken with very specialised equipment. The images were destroyed after use and would have been lost. The musée Nicéphore Niépce got hold of collection of negatives and brought those pictures back to life.
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Back to the boat we get the jerry cans out and take advantage of the gigantomarket right behind the harbour. Here the IO decides to source a new pair of shoes for the lad. It eludes me why it has to be here and now, but after half an hour I do fall into my nervous shopping convulsions and retire to the boat. Expecting never to see them again.  Still, eventually, after a very long time, they reappear and we can finally set sails.

Traffic on the river is dense.
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But the locals are not easily to be impressed by it.
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Soon the A-Rosa Luna starts to overtake us. It is amazing how these hulls are constructed. They produce no noticeable wash.
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At the huge Port de Commerce some loading is going on. Grain…
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… and timber.

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At Gigny we pass another disused lock, that is used as a boat harbour.
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At ecluse Ormes we manage to nip in just after the A-Rosa Stella. Also this ship is 126 meters long, there is plenty of space for us and a few more cruisers.
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Getting close to Tournus, as predicted, the hills finally move towards the river.

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Landy content.
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Tournus seems a nice place, but we had visited a town already today, so we leave it for the return leg.
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Le Villars looks worth a visit, perched on his hill. But there is no obvious place for getting to shore.
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For us it is the little tributary to the Saône, the Seille. Leaving the big river the scenery immediately changes, smaller,a bit hemmed in. There are four manual locks, the first of it being manned. Good timing applied, we make it just before 19.00 to get through.
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We tie up at the little Marina at La Truchère were we can also order bread for tomorrow. Later in the evening we meet Roland and Val from New Zealand.  They have been boating the French canals for quiet some years. Only interrupted by a cycling trip the length of the Danube. A pleasant and interesting evening.

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France 2017, Saône (Day 18)

pk 170 – Chalon-sur-Saône

Sunday, 20.08.2017

35 km 0 locks

We had a very quiet night, far away from everything. Apart from two cruise ships coming past sometime during the night.
It is less than an hour to Verdun-sur-le –Doubs. The Doubs that we left at Dole for the Rhine-Rhone-Canal has got his confluence with the Saône here.
On the way, we pass another disused lock. In fact two disused locks. A peniche sized one on the left, and an even bigger on the right hand side.

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Verdun is very unusual for a French country town on a Sunday. All the shops are open, the roads are busy with people. At least as busy as you can expect. And the cafes are well visited.
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The town center used to be located on an island between the Doubs and the Saône.
Notice the winter flood marks on the wall.
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Today the Ile St.Jean seems to be in a decline.
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The main reason for me to come here, is the flour and bread museum, as I would be keen to learn more about my favourite French food. Alas, the liberal approach to Sunday openings has yet to reach the Museum.

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Soon after Verdun, we pass Chauvort, with its lonely bridge pillars.
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A quaint weekend residency.

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Past the Pont de Verjux there is some industrial activity.
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A loading quay for aggregate on the left hand side. Quite an interesting affair with a line of conveyor belts delivering the sand from a quarry pond almost two kilometres away.
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And on the right there is another quay that has even got a designated bridge for the bargee’s car.

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More nice houses at Allériot.
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We are closing in on Chalon-sur-Saône. Here idiots can hire powerboats. It is Sunday, the idiots have got a day off and thus time trying to sink us. Not so pleasant.
And just as we pass the junction with the Canal du Centre…
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… the Gerda S tries to ram us.
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Wide awake, we pass the docklands…
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… sail between the Ile de St-Laurent (to the left) and the city centre (to the right)…

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… round the tip of the island…

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…. and moor up at the Marina.
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Very strictly organized, a harbour master waves at you, shows you to a berth, and ties the boat up. With a price to suit. But we are lucky, as we got the last available spot. Pre-booking is not possible.

Time for a stroll to town. Watching cruise ships.
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Nice old houses.
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On the square in front of the cathedral St-Vincent…
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… we find a table for café and ice cream.
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After watching a few street scenes …
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… it is back to the Ile St-Laurent.

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We had a table booked at the restaurant Les Canailles.  Quiet a nice three course meal, with a good bottle on the side. Pure bliss.

France 2017, Saône (Day 17)

Saint-Jean-de-Losne – pk 170

Saturday, 19.08.2017

33 km 2 locks

Our friend’s left their miniature pug with us for the night. Because their hotel doesn’t allow pets. Sound like a very sensible policy, that shall be implemented aboard ARGO. Pugs do snore, they snore a lot.

Before the morning rush hour breaks loose, I get some fresh bread.

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Shorty after breakfast our friends arrive and we take them for a short trip upstream. Then they are off on their way to Cherbourg and we are ready to explore the “grand” Saône.

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Past the railway bridge, grain silos indicate, why there is still commercial traffic on the river.
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When five new locks were built in the 1970s to bring the Saône up to the European 3000ton Standard, the old locks which were already huge for the time, became redundant. The one below Saint-Jean-de-Losne is now used as a harbour by H2O.

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The valley gets very wide and flat. And will stay so all the way to Tournus, 100 km downstream. Only then will the Burgundy vineyards move closer to the river. Here you can see them really far away.
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There was a grand plan of building a massive waterway all the way from Lyon to Mulhouse on the Rhine. The massive Dérivation de Seurre is as far as the project got, before it was binned in the 90’s.
Which probably is a good thing. Otherwise the valley of the Doubs would now look like this.
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Or that..
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The Dérivation is 9 km dead straight boredom. The only distraction is the Technoport at Pagny-le-Château. Connected to road and rail 4000ton barges can be loaded here and reach the Mediterranean in 52 hours. Apparently they shift 150.000 tons of goods per year.

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But the real attraction is the ecluse Seurre. At a length of 185 meters, a width of 12 meters and a rise of 3.75 meters its is absolutely huge.
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And we are locked through completely on our own.
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Shortly after the lock we arrive at Seurre.
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A pretty village with some nice houses and local history museum which, surprise, is open. The museum is as interesting as local history museums go, but unfortunately ways too dark to get any good pictures.

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At the downstream end of the village is a derelict loading quay with a small yellow crane. Not very pretty, but right at the back of the local Intermarche. With the Sunday looming and a need for fuel, we grab this convenient opportunity.
Back on the boat we glide downstream on this great river in all its beauty.
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Traffic certainly does increase. With one peniche chasing the next.
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At Ecuelles we have to wait for almost two hours to get locked through.
Once we are in the lock chamber, a peniche closes in from the back.  Which really is not a problem at all. There would be space for plenty more.

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Being quite late already, the jetty advertised in the map at Ecuelles fails to materialise. So we have to press on in search for a place for the night. The river is quite hemmed in for the next five kilometres and the banks heavily reinforced with big junks of rock.
Only past the Ile Perrée at pk 170 the river widens to a big bay. And here we find a quiet space just deep enough for ARGO and well sheltered from the wash of passing craft.
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The BBQ comes out together with a bottle of wine. The crew of this empty peniche is not so fortunate. They pass us well past nine o’clock.
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France 2017, Canal du Rhone au Rhin, Saône (Day 16)

Dole – Saint-Jean-de-Losne

Friday, 18.08.2017

25 km 8 locks

At eight in the morning it is already well above 30° C.  Still we stroll into town, to check out the food market. Unfortunately no Roti stall.
But again Dole doesn’t fail to amaze.

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But eventually it is time to set off. We are on a bit of a mission today. We have a dinner appointment with friends on their route from Switzerland to Ireland.  We shall meet at Saint-Jean-de-Losne on the Saône.
Thus they have to find a hotel room for themselves and we have to find a table in a decent restaurant. But first we need to get there.
Goodbye Dole.

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We use the short river stretch below the town lock for a quick dip and then join the 17 km of canal stretch down to the Saône. This time I have the privilege  to actually watch the surrounds rather than the inside of the water tank locker. And it is a really beautiful stretch of waterway. Unfortunately I don’t take many pictures other than of the usine Solvay.
But it all is really quite bizarre.
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Water transport of the chemicals has been superseded by rail transport. Which somehow is sad from the view of commercial navigation. But just right now I would prefer a train blowing up somewhere else over a barge blowing up right next to me.
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At the last lock in Saint-Symphorien we part with our remote control.
And then we are back on the Saône.

A brief summary of the Rhine-Rhone-canal:
Last year I couldn’t sing enough praise for the Upper Lot. And I stand to my word. But the Doubs and its canal must be one of the finest navigations on the connected French network. The part you can reach, if you don’t enjoy the privilege of having a trail boat. The scenery is absolutely spectacular, boating through the f***ing Alps. Dole and Besançon are amazing cities of great interest and beauty, deeply steeped into history.
The downsides: The Doubs can get quite wild at times, and the very deep lock cuts are a vivid witnesses of that fact. Also we had none of this.
Moorings are wide and far between, also we could possibly have found something bankside if there would have been no alternative. But generally the navigation channel is very distinct, and it is not really wise to leave it. Which brings us to the next “difficulty”: Generally the navigation channel is very distinct, and it is not really wise to leave it. Not too difficult, but you have to keep an open eye.
All in all: Do go there. It is well worth it.

Meanwhile, back on the Saône, we arrive at St-Jean-de-Losne. Just as we we find an ARGO-sized spot at the stepped quay, hell breaks loose and the black clouds that have followed us for the last hour, open up and the rain lashes down together with a proper gale. So the mooring up is not so dignified, but rather more like an emergency landing. Boat tied up, we batten down the hatches and wait for the thunderstorm to pass.

Just as the storm abates, the Avalon Poetry II reverses through the bridge to her berth. Saint-Jean is the head of navigation for cruise ships of that size. They ply their trade between her, past Lyon, all the way to the Mediterranean.  And we will see much more of them in the next few days.

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Meanwhile, after a lot of texting and phone calls, our friend have found Saint-Jean and we settle for the restaurant Sauconna by the waterfront. Not all too shabby. We had a very pleasant evening, rounded off with a bottle of red (or two?) aboard ARGO.

France 2017, Canal du Rhone au Rhin (Day 15)

Ranchot – Dole

Thursday, 17.08.2017

24 km 5 locks

We have a rather rude awakening. In, what feels like the middle of the night, ARGO starts to rattle and to shake. Panic, curses, realisation that it must come from the outside.
A 300ton peniche churns up the mud, sliding more than floating over the bottom of the narrow lock cut. They must have allowed for that, as she is far from fully loaded.

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Being wide awake, I call it  a night. Brushing teeth, getting dressed, walking to the really nice boulangerie/village shop, coming back with fresh bread, the penichette has just made it through the same bridge that can be seen in the first picture. Maybe 100 m in 15 minutes… Some dredging sure wouldn’t go amiss.
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Our neighbours are also awake, thus we have a leisurely breakfast with a bit of a chat. They are in no rush to press on with the behemoth in front of them.
Although they send us a text later the day, that the penichette eventually waved them past.

The stretch between ecluse Ranchot and ecluse Mulin des Malades is quite special. The navigation is separated from the river only by a stone wall. The river itself topples over a long weir. Thus for almost a kilometre there are three levels of river. Plus birds.
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And there is more surprise to come. There is more oncoming commercial traffic. And a nice boat too.
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He even slows down for us and gives us a friendly wave.
Closing in to Rochefort-sur-Nenon, we stop midstream for a bit of swimming and messing. But are more considerate about possible disaster coming round the corner.
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We moor up to the floating jetty below the cliffs. In order to get to the top. From there we have a commanding few over the river, a huge weir and the surrounding landscape.
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The village of Rochefort-sur-Nenon is rather nice. But the café is just closing as we have descended the cliffs and would be ready for a fresh glass of hop extract and some ice cream.
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We settle for refreshments on the boat. Apart from a small section in Dole, the navigation from here to the Saône, is completely artificial. So we use the opportunity for a last swim, before we settle for two days of canal life.
The last stretch into Dole is particularly beautiful.
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We find a mooring with a view.
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I cannot emphasise enough, that I am not a fan of cities. But Dole certainly is a place I could fall in love with. It just is beautiful. And we are in for a treat. When researching our trip, I found a restaurant, that really sticks out from the pack, that I really wanted to visit.  And thus I booked a table at the Grain de Sel.
Before we get there we have to have another stroll through the town.
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The lad is big time into cars. Must be the age. He will soon understand, that boats are a much more delightful way to waste ones money. He is charmed when we found this muscle car.
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Then we take our table at the Grain de Sel. Never in my life have I ever eaten such amazing food. So well prepared, excellent quality fresh ingredients, very attentive service.
Sweetbread as main for me:
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The IO’s fish:
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And even the lads children’s menu is delightfully detailed and a real meal, not just fries with chicken.
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And for wine they have a most delightful Cahors. Unbelievable. When in Dole go there.

Leaving this temple of delight, we are in high spirits and decide to find out if there is some music going in the Irish pub. Instead we find a night market being in full swing. Stalls of food and drink.
And a stage with a grandstand in front of it. People waiting in eager anticipation. The thirteen time French accordion champion is announced. He eventually makes it to the stage and plays two valse de musette. Very French. But then he switches to incredibly bad schlager music. That might have triggered two gentlemen right in front of us to start an impromptu row, beating the crap out of each other.

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So a day not to complain about. Tightly packed with all kinds of fun and culture one could possibly hope for. But maybe cities are still not for me.

France 2017, Canal du Rhone au Rhin (Day 14)

Besançon – Ranchot

Wednesday, 16.08.2017

41 km 10 locks 1 tunnel

Today will be rather more structured than the last few days. Marcus has to get to Dole to collect his car, as his holiday draws to an end. Ranchot, the next sensible mooring is quite a stretch away and we have got some important sight-seeing to do.
We get up early, rush a breakfast and leave this friendly city. We, that is the crew without Marcus, as he has caught a train to Dole.

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The lad takes a turn at the tiller. He would be really skilled, but lacks some patience, with ARGO not having enough horsepower for his taste.
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The scenery is not as absolutely spectacular as on the upstream side of Besançon. But still pretty with the odd castle added for interest.
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Just before the Thoraise tunnel navigation does get slightly interesting.  The hotel boat Jeanine has just left the tunnel and is traveling upstream the lock cut approaching the tunnel. Playing chicken does not seem to be a promising strategy.  Good job a Beaver is, almost like a DAF 44, drives backwards as well as forward.
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Meanwhile Marcus had reached the tunnel portal by car and can take some pictures of the Jeanine leaving the tunnel.
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Here the crew swaps to Markus’ car, in order to do a bit of food, and while they have a car, wine shopping.
In return I am on my own. Beautiful solitude.  At least for an hour or two.
Through the tunnel…
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…down the lock…
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… past a want to have cliff top house…
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…and an old paper mill…
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… to Osselle. Where I tie up the boat in the old commercial lay-by. Signs indicate that mooring is absolutely totally forbidden. But they seem to be from way past the last millennium, as are the rusty ducs d’Albe. Just as I am finished securing ARGO rather precariously to some bramble bushes, the car turns up. Provisions are loaded to the boat. And off in the car it is to the Grotte d’Osselle. Organised visits to this cave are recorded since the 15th century. Thus it must be one of the oldest show caves. We will find out, what it is all about.

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Not quiet as moving as the visit to Peche Merle last year, but still quiet some geology. Worth a detour.
Back at the boat Marcus loads the folding bike into his car and drives off to Ranchot. Being an avid biker he wishes to tame my mighty mustang cheap peace of far eastern engineering.
Meanwhile we press on with ARGO. Only stopped by the lock at St-Vit which takes ages to react to the remote control.
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Just before lock closing time we reach Ranchot and nestle into the last available space. Markus and Sophie stay for dinner and then get on their way back home to Germany.  Meanwhile we spend the evening with the couple from next boat. They are from Germany, and amongst other things, have got their own vineyard. So they not only give us a bottle of their wine, but a bottle of THEIR wine. Thank you. Meanwhile their kids look after the lad. A pleasant evening all round.

France 2017, Canal du Rhone au Rhin (Day 13)

Deluz – Besançon

Tuesday, 15.08.2017

24 km 4 locks

Another day in paradise, with a few interesting boats thrown into the mix.  With no particular plan in mind, all we want to achieve is to make it into Besançon. Hotel for Marcus and Sophie, maybe a nice meal…
So we have a leisurely morning with a lateish start.
Right at Deluz harbour there is this ex-life boat moored. A bit of googling reveals that it has been stationed at Royan in Brittany during his active life as part of the French life boat associations fleet.

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Later in the morning we pass this nice boat. Apparently we are not the only ones that have taken a wrong turn at Brentford.
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The day idles away with swimming and watching cows from a save distance.
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Eventually Besançon gets into sight again.
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Markus has booked a hotel room and I have booked a mooring at St-Paul harbour. Thus we are not rushed and decide to circumnavigate the city. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can do this so easily than here.
We take a left turn into the Soutterain Tarragnoz, built in 1882 it is 394 meters long and cuts right underneath the Citadelle.
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A keeper operated lock is situated right at the downstream end of the tunnel. A lovely old plague indicates the variable drop of this lock.
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Going upstream now, we pass some interesting architecture. The space ship in the front houses the goverment of the Franche-Comté. The castellated building in the background is actually brand new and is part of the university.
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Having arrived at the mooring, an excursion to the city seems in order. We have lived quite frugally for the last few days. If only there was hardly an opportunity to spend money. Thus it is ice cream all round. With very paranoid French military guarding us.

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Then we have to find a place for dinner. We have tired a bit of the variations of sausages und spuds. Thus we set our mind on something slightly more exotic. Crossing the busy Pont Battant…
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…we climb up to Fort Griffon on the opposite bank to the Citadelle.
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There we find the tiny but lovingly decorated “Le Palais Bleu”. Madeleine, the owner fills all the positions to be had in a restaurant herself. So it is just as well, that we are the only guests this night. Nonetheless is the traditional Moroccan food most delicious. Highly recommended.
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